People say the failure of Katrina’s response was race based; because the victims were mostly black. I say no. It was not principally because they were black, but because they poor. That said, when mainstream folks have a headache, black folks have pneumonia.

Fact: in 2000, 25% of black New Orleans residents lived on less than $10,000 a year, and more than 70% lived on less than $35,000 a year.

Fact: One-third of black people in the city of New Orleans have never finished high school, and 35% of black New Orleans residents had no car or truck to take them away from the impending disaster.

Fact: New Orleans had the most concentrated black poverty of any American city.

Their sin was not, and is not that they were black in America. Frankly, that is reason to be immensely, immensely proud. Their sin is that they were (mostly) poor in America; and uneducated or under-educated, non-stakeholders, non-voters, and they didn’t have a bank account, credit cards, nor a car. Note: respectfully, you didn’t see many middle class black folks huddling for days in a crumbling Dome in New Orleans. They moved their families to Dallas. Hello. Remember the television image of the Katrina victim who could not get a FEMA payment because they had no bank account to wire it into?

Poverty is the real culprit. The poverty of mind, body, spirit and finances, …these are my enemies. The poor of New Orleans, are my friend.


John Hope Bryant

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